Common Challenges of Running a Virtual Office

Sun, Apr 29, 2012


The latest trend in the business world is virtual offices. Meaning that your company has no physical office space and instead all employees work from home. Using this set up can help significantly reduce costs as you don’t have to rent office space and stock that office, freeing up some money to invest in other areas of your business. It might sound like the perfect solution, but here are some struggles many owners confront when running a virtual office.

Many business owners have a hard time adjusting to the fact that they can’t physically check in on their employees to maintain productivity. With your employees working from every corner of the country possibly, you have no way to ensure they’re actually working the whole time. Whereas in an office setting, you’d notice if they’re constantly on Facebook or taking long lunch breaks, in a virtual office you can’t check in on them. Some business owners combat this mistrust by requesting reports or check-ins from their employees but you’d want to be careful to not overwhelm your employees with update requests. And as you become more and more comfortable with the arrangement, hopefully your trust can build and you work toward only requesting a single update a day, if any.

Camaraderie among employees is much more difficult to foster in virtual offices. Your employees may suffer a little from the isolation of not working near their coworkers and losing the ability to relate with each other when working on especially difficult or undesirable tasks. If they have no one to “face the battle” with, they may not feel as invested in the job. If your employees are in the same city you may want to consider throwing monthly work gatherings. A way to help your employees to interact with each other holding regular conference calls or setting up a company instant messaging service will help lessen that isolation. If you’re employees are in the same city you could also hold monthly company gatherings where they can socialize, especially when major milestones are reached.

When converting to a virtual office, many business owners and clients fear productivity lessening. If your employees are able to set their own hours and work schedules, they could be “off” and unavailable when a major crisis hits the business. When first starting the virtual office, you may solve this issue by requiring certain employees, especially those who are essential for running the business, to always have their phones at least on vibrate and setting “office hours” during which all employees must be easily accessible and near their phones or computers. There’s no way to guarantee you won’t end up waiting a couple hours for your IT specialist to receive your texts about the website crashing, but with set guidelines your employees can be just as easily reachable as employees in a physical office.

Even the most adamant virtual office enthusiast would be concerned over compliance issues for their business and their clients. If an employee is handling sensitive information over an unsecured Wi-Fi connection, what does that mean for the business? And, without a physical office space, information regarding your clients could be spread out all over the city. This can be fixed by setting clear rules about how information is processed and handled, like requiring that employees don’t use open networks and that they have secure places to keep any and all client information.

Like with any decision regarding your business, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of running a virtual office before committing. It has a lot of benefits once you get used to the new structure and, with the right set of employees, your business will run just as smoothly as it would with a physical office.

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